In a "special gesture", British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined a U.K. Cabinet Office meeting here between National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and British counterpart Tim Barrow.
Mr. Sunak highlighted the U.K. government’s support to deepen strategic partnerships in areas such as trade, defence and science and technology during the meeting on Friday.
Mr. Doval was in London for an annual bilateral strategic dialogue on his way back from Washington, where he met U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan for similar talks.
“A special gesture by PM Rishi Sunak to join for a while the India-U.K. NSA dialogue between Sir Tim Barrow and Mr. Doval at Cabinet Office,” the Indian High Commission in London and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) tweeted late on Saturday, with reference to the meeting.
“Deeply value PM's assurance of his government’s full support to deepen strategic partnership in trade, defence, S&T. Look forward to visit of Sir Tim to India soon,” it noted.
The security dialogue comes against the backdrop of the controversial BBC documentary, ‘India: The Modi Question’, which the Indian government has condemned as biased propaganda.
The U.K. has responded in Parliament to diaspora protests across the country over the two-part series by declaring the BBC as a media outlet “independent in its outlet” and reiterating its commitment to enhance ties with India.
“We recognise how this portrayal of the Indian government has played out in India. I made it clear that the BBC is independent in its output, that the U.K. regards India as an incredibly important international partner and that we will be investing heavily in that relationship in the coming decades,” U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the House of Commons earlier last week.
India and the U.K. share a comprehensive strategic partnership and have agreed a 2030 Roadmap to enhance bilateral relations in all spheres, including defence and security.
A free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated between the two sides has had six rounds of talks, with a seventh round expected in Britain in the coming weeks.
According to official U.K. government data, bilateral trade currently stands at around 29.6 billion pounds a year – a figure both sides aim to enhance with an FTA.